Butler endured two painful losses at the Nutter Center last season, but that was when Wright State had DaShaun Wood.
The No. 13 Bulldogs look to end their six-game road losing streak to the Raiders on Saturday night when last season’s Horizon League co-champions meet for the first time in 2007-08.
While Butler (8-0, 1-0) moved into the national rankings last season on the strength of nonconference wins over Notre Dame, Indiana and Gonzaga, the Bulldogs weren’t able to finish alone atop the league. That’s because Wood - the Horizon League player of the year - averaged 19.6 points for the season to lead the Raiders to a 13-3 league mark and a share of the crown.
Wright State (2-2, 0-1) also went on to win the conference tournament on its home floor, beating Butler 60-55 in the championship. Wood scored 27 points and outplayed Butler star A.J. Graves, who had 12, as the Raiders clinched their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1993.
Wood also scored 30 points while Graves had 10 on 3-of-16 shooting in a 77-65 home win on Feb. 10 that snapped Butler’s nine-game winning streak. The Bulldogs haven’t beaten the Raiders on the road since an 81-70 win on Jan. 16, 2003, a streak which includes two losses in the conference tournament.
There’s a good chance that Butler can snap that streak Saturday since Wood has graduated and the Bulldogs return five senior starters, but they may need Graves to turn around his woes at the Nutter Center in order to prevail.
This will be the senior guard’s last chance to win at Wright State, barring another meeting in the conference tournament. Graves is averaging just 13.6 points on 36.6 percent shooting in five career road games against the Raiders, and also missed all nine shots in a 67-66 overtime win over Loyola of Chicago at the Nutter Center in the semifinals of the Horizon League tournament last season.
Butler will likely again be without one of its senior starters after Pete Campbell sat out Thursday’s 53-46 win at Detroit in the conference opener with a knee injury suffered in last Saturday’s win over Ohio State.
Freshman Matt Howard got his first start and took advantage for team highs of 20 points and 11 rebounds. Howard did most of his scoring inside as opposed to Campbell, who is shooting 50.0 percent (28-of-56) on 3-pointers.
“He made some amazing plays,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said of Howard, who also had 23 points against Ohio State. “The seniors didn’t have the greatest of games but he had some room out there to operate.”
Graves had a season-low eight points on 2-of-8 shooting Thursday, missing all five 3-point attempts. He entered the game shooting 46.5 percent from beyond the arc.
The Bulldogs, who won their first 10 games last season, also missed Campbell’s shooting touch. They made 3 of 19 3s after hitting at least eight in each of their first seven games.
Wright State lost its second straight Thursday, 71-66 to Horizon League newcomer Valparaiso. Vaughn Duggins scored 18 points, including a tying 3-pointer with 65 seconds left, but the Raiders failed to score again.